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Lee Tiger was musician, champion of Native culture

Lee Tiger in 2021. (Lee Tiger Facebook)

Those who knew the Miccosukee Tribe’s Lee Tiger remember him as a prolific musician who also worked for many years to promote Native tourism and culture on behalf of the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes. Tiger died Jan. 5 in Davie after a lengthy illness, according to his son and Seminole tribal member Calvin Tiger. He was 72 years old.

Tiger was the son of the Miccosukee Tribe’s first chief, Buffalo Tiger, who played a significant role in the development of the Miccosukee’s tribal status. Federal recognition came in 1962 and Tiger was the tribe’s chairman from that year until 1985. He died in 2015 at age 94.

As teenagers in the 1960s, Lee Tiger and his brother Stephen Tiger formed the rock band Sun Country, which later became Tiger Tiger. Lee Tiger had previously played in the band Seven of Us, later known as NRBQ, while living in Los Angeles. He sang and played several instruments.

The brothers, and Tiger Tiger, are credited for helping to break the stereotypes of Native musicians. They were “musicians who just happened to be Native Americans,” Lee Tiger told the New Times Broward-Palm Beach in 2015.

Their last commercially produced album was “Southern Exposure” in 2000, which received a Grammy nomination. The brothers were also recognized with a lifetime achievement award in 2006 from the Native American Music Association. Stephen Tiger died from a fall later the same year at age 57.

“Lee is sorely missed by his family and friends but we will always have his music to remind [us] of his message of unity …” Curtis E. Osceola, chief of staff for the Miccosukee Tribe, said in a statement Jan. 9.

Tourism, advocacy

In the 1970s, the brothers returned to the Miccosukee Tribe to help their father launch the Miccosukee Arts Festival and establish the Miccosukee Village in the Everglades as an entertainment and ecotourism destination. It marked the beginning of Tiger’s many years of work in tribal tourism and promotion of Native culture.

Tiger did marketing and tourism for the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes and helped develop the Seminole Tribe’s Billie Swamp Safari on the Big Cypress Reservation in the 1990s.

“There are photos of him traveling all over the world promoting the tribes,” Calvin Tiger said. “He also owned his own consulting business and consulted for other tribes around the county.”

Tiger served on several public commissions and organizations, Florida tourism committees, and national tribal organizations. He consulted with universities and other organizations as well as with tribal officials on a variety of Native issues.

Osceola said Tiger was an advocate and ambassador for the Miccosukee people.

“He was a beautiful soul who advocated for unity between cultures through respect for one another and envisioned a world where we could all come together through peace, love, and caring for our Mother Earth,” Osceola said in the statement. “Lee carried with him the identity of Miccosukee, to care for the world around you like family and always shared his culture and identity with anyone who was interested. Lee was a Miccosukee patriot, and his love of country, culture, and identity is one that we should all aspire to have.”

In recent years, Tiger was a proponent of Native rights and environmental conservation.

“Our hearts are with the family and friends of Lee Tiger as we acknowledge his passing by honoring his legacy of arts, advocacy, international diplomacy, peace and unity, and Indigenous pride,” the Miccosukee Tribe’s Houston Cypress, of the Love the Everglades Movement, posted on Facebook shortly after his death. “We thank Lee Tiger for standing up for the Greater Everglades for so many years and we will remember him fondly.”

Lee is survived by his children, Calvin Tiger and Summer Tiger, along with several grandchildren. A graveside service took place Jan. 10 at Woodlawn Park Cemetery South in Miami.

Editor’s note: Calvin Tiger is an intern/reporter for the Seminole Tribune. He has worked for the Seminole Tribe since 2013.

The album cover of “Southern Exposure” with Lee Tiger, left, and brother Stephen Tiger. (Courtesy Calvin Tiger)
Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at